Government Lawyers Say FirstNet Network is Still Not Operational
Friday, July 20, 2018 | Comments

Government attorneys reiterated in a court filing that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) is not yet operational. The filing came in response to a filing from Vermont residents Dave Gram and Stephen Whitaker arguing that the government had failed to inform the court that the NPSBN was operational.

Gram and Whitaker sued the Department of Commerce (DOC) last October over several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and privacy issues in the U.S. District Court of Vermont. FirstNet is an independent authority of DOC. U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford dismissed the FOIA issues, but the privacy claims in the suit are still under consideration.

The original lawsuit argued that under the E-Government Act of 2002, FirstNet must perform a privacy impact assessment (PIA) on the network because agencies will collect and distribute personally identifiable information (PII) across the network.

Lawyers for the government have maintained that a PIA is not required because the information sent over the network will not be stored by the federal government but by AT&T and the agencies. Additionally, the lawyers argued that Gram and Whitaker do not have standing for a claim because they cannot prove their information will be collected over the network and that the network is not yet ripe for review because it is not operational.

In an earlier filing, the government said it would notify the court as soon as the network became operational.

In a notice filed at the end of June, Gram and Whitaker pointed to a June 25 Washington Post article saying that the FirstNet network had launched. In the filing, Gram and Whitaker questioned why the government did not notify the court of the change in operational status.

“While plaintiffs will not make a formal motion to this effect at this point, they respectfully suggest that the court should consider requiring defendant to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for lack of candor to the court,” the filing said. “Defendant’s conduct is exacerbated by the fact that at the same time it attempted to mislead the court, it stated that it would ‘inform the court’ if anything changed, and yet it fell to plaintiffs to notice a newspaper article in which the FirstNet Authority and AT&T were practically bragging about the operational nature of this network.”

AT&T announced in March that it had launched the dedicated public-safety core and said public-safety users would be migrated to the core by May.

In its response filing, the government acknowledged that AT&T had launched the FirstNet core but argued that the core is only one component of the network. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created FirstNet, mandates that the NPSBN consists of two components, a core network and a radio access network (RAN), the government argued.

“Although, as indicated in the Washington Post article cited by plaintiffs, the first component — the core network — ‘went live’ in March 2018, the second component — the radio access network — is still being built,” the filing said. “The fact that the core network is operational does not mean the NPSBN, as a whole, is complete.”

The government also said that AT&T had announced the launch of the core prior to other filings in the case, meaning that it was not new information as Whitaker and Gram claimed.

“When the NPSBN becomes operational, i.e. as soon as any services are being provided to public-safety users on the band 14 radio frequency spectrum, defendant will inform the court,” the filing said.

AT&T announced July 20 that it has been actively deploying band 14 as part of the FirstNet buildout. AT&T said band 14 deployments are underway in 50 states and Puerto Rico, and band 14 is on-air for live testing in more than 40 states. AT&T also AT&T reported it has 110,000 connections on the FirstNet network from nearly 1,500 public-safety agencies across 52 states and territories.

Under its contract with AT&T, FirstNet said AT&T must have 20 percent band 14 coverage in both rural and nonrural areas by March 2019.

Crawford is considering a government motion to dismiss the case because of lack of standing. Crawford has not indicated when he plans to rule on the motion.

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Comments
On 7/21/18, stephen whitaker said:

Initially they were signing up FirstNet users last year saying they offered priority and pre-emption services and the bait-and-switch use of AT&T's commercial network.

Then they continued claiming many new users and aimed to subscribe agencies and departments leading up to the launch of the dedicated core.

Now that the new core is operational they move the goal post ever further out to the band 14 deployment.

Next it will be the mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT), which will be the new de-mark event of operational.

Then of course it will be the next generation of X, Y and Z location technology.

And then a new software or hardware upgrade will be necessary and FirstNet will thus not be operational until that too is completed.

In the meantime massive quantities of personally identifiable information (PII) are being sucked up into AT&T's systems to feed their Hemisphere subscription privacy and civil liberty invasion services, the Palantir and National Security Agency (NSA) collaborative data mining operations, etc.

And our public-safety officials can blindly claim ignorance at the REAL public-safety risks that they are complicit in subjecting all of us to when the PII is misused for nefarious illegal or unethical purposes.

Wake up.

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